High-stakes tests fail to raise student achievement

22nd July 2011 at 01:00
US researchers back range of measures

An American study on the use of high-stakes tests says they have not had a positive effect on achievement.

The report from the National Research Council, a respected independent body, says programmes which impose sanctions or rewards based on test results can encourage teachers to teach to the test. It calls for schools to be measured by a range of student outcomes, such as average test scores rather than a pass line, to overcome teachers focusing on borderline children.

The study also points out that when incentives encourage teachers to focus on the material included in a test, understanding of the untested material may decrease, so a broader range of material should be included in tests where feasible.

The report originated in the debate on the No Child Left Behind Act, which required students to pass a state-wide standardised test.

Defiant note on schools' ethos

"We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all. Every one. And that is why it's not a business. It's a school."

Anonymous teacher quoted in blog of Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County superintendent for schools, cited at the 55th World Assembly of the International Council on Education for Teaching, at Glasgow University last week.

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